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The Nitty-Gritty Details Of My Rewrite Process

For the past three weeks I've had my head buried in my first contracted book, now officially titled The Preacher's Bride. As you may remember, Bethany House sent me my first of three sets of edits. (For an outline of the editing process, click here.) The edits I'm currently tackling are called rewrites because they involve--well, LOTS of rewriting! (For more on what my editors asked me to change, click here.)

I didn't allow myself much time to wallow in the despair I initially felt after getting back my rewrites. Only hours after I got off the phone with my editor, I opened up a blank spreadsheet screen and started plodding through my book, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. I made notes in my spreadsheet of what I needed to change, add, or delete from every scene.

Then I started from page one implementing the major changes. In some places, all I've needed to do is tweak descriptions, add a sentence or two, delete a phrase, or simplify/clarify something. In other places, I've had to slash whole paragraphs, delete entire scenes, and in a couple of cases rewrite chapters.

As of today, I'm up to Chapter 21 out of 35. I've made it my goal to tackle one chapter a day. Some days I can race through a couple of chapters, especially if I see from my spreadsheet that the chapters are fairly clean. Other times I struggle to complete my daily goal and have to drag the chapter out over a couple of days.

The hardest part about the rewrite process is the cutting and pasting. If I have to delete a scene or chapter, I can't just throw it away. There are things within those scenes that are critical to my plot and character development. The trick is finding another place to seamlessly weave those details back into the story.

The best part about the rewriting is seeing the story come together in a new, but better way. My editors were completely right about most of the changes I needed to make. Now that I'm deep into the rewrite process, I can see the increased potential these changes are bringing. It's truly one of the most thrilling things I've experienced in my writing journey.

The most daunting aspect of the past few weeks has been the TIME factor. I've had to put my research for my second book on hold. Even though my rewrites aren't due until Christmas, I gave myself a personal goal of finishing them by Thanksgiving. If I continue to finish one chapter a day, then I should be able to meet my goal.

But TIME is incredibly hard to manage! My writing days are usually chaotic, and I'm having to learn how to balance new writing demands with life responsbilities. More about that later in the week. . .

For today, I'd love to hear your questions. I want my journey to publication to be an open book. So let me know what you're curious about! I'll keep a list and try to answer the questions in future posts. And if you don't have any questions, then just say "howdy" and let me know what you're up to these days!

62 comments:

  1. Oh how many times I thought of you this weekend as I was at the conference! I told some people about your blog - told them it was a great resource for the journey!

    One of the workshops I went to was on revision...the presenter (who writes nonfiction) goes through fifteen revisions of every book. He, too, talked about not really "deleting" when he deletes. He said he saves everything and sometimes he's able to make something new out of what he had to cut.

    He did talk about two fiction authors, though now I forget who he said they were, who had to cut out a whole chapter from a book and they ended up redeveloping those into novellas that he thinks were among their best work. Nothing is ever truly "lost!"

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  2. All the best with the rewrites Jody. thank you for making your journey so open book. I have probably said this before, but I am learning such a lot from your path to publication :)

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  3. It sounds like you really attacked your revisions in a very organized way, Jody. Good luck with them!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  4. I am so thankful that you've made your publication journey an open book! I learn so much from you in every post.

    I am also tackling my chapters/scenes in a spreadsheet. I would love to know how yours is set up. I loved reading Jill's method in a recent post. I'm always using Excel at work, but until recently, I had never tried to use spreadsheets with my book. I love it. So easy to organize. Would love to know how to make it even better, though.

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  5. Howdy!

    Question: How much guidance do they give you in the rewrites? Do they just say what doesn't work and you have to find out how to fix it, or do they give you very specific feedback and guidance?

    sounds exhilerating! And very time-consuming! Praying for you as you balance your new responsibilities as a writer!

    For me...I'm in the midst of my WIP. The rough draft. It's all feeling very loose and wobbly at the moment. I don't edit while I write, because if I did, I would never get the book done. But it also leaves me feeling like I'm tottering a hundre feet in the air over a balance beam with not net to catch me. What if this book royally stinks? It's a question I wrestle with during every WIP.

    Have a blessed Monday, Jody!
    Katie

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  6. Though a lot of work, the rewrites must be exciting too. They put you one step closer to having your book published.

    I'll be interested to see your take on balancing what you want to do with what you need to do.

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  7. LOVE hearing about your progress... sounds like you're doing GREAT!

    I'm in my "reconnect with family" mode right now after finishing my WIP... in about 2 weeks I'll dive into editing. *gulp* I'm a little nervous, because my first book that I edited took me TWO YEARS... but... I had no clue what I was doing for one and a half of those, and I've learned a ton so hopefully wrote better this time.

    A chapter a day is a GREAT goal. I might borrow that:-)

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  8. I learn something new every time you blog. I'm amazed at the progress you're making. Here's a question I have. You were finally starting to research and dig into your second book, but now the edits have come. Do you have days where the ideas for book two just flow? And if so, do you leave the edits in order to work on that? How do you balance two different projects?

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  9. I don't have any questions, but I am impressed with the progress you have made already on your rewrites and can't wait to be able to purchase the book and read it for myself.

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  10. Okay, I was going to comment about writing, but then my (2.5 year old) daughter came up next to me, pointed at your picture, and said, "that's mommy's friend!"

    Awww. Yes, sweetie. That's my friend.

    My daughter says "hi."

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  11. Jody,
    I've followed your posts about your journey with interest, because it parallels mine in many ways. I'm currently responding to my editor's macro and substantive edits on Code Blue. It's good to know that others are traveling the same road--and surviving.
    Best wishes.

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  12. Wow! Sounds exhausting yet exhilirating to do rewrites!

    As always, thanks for sharing your progress with us. I've learned so much from following you and want one of the first copies of your book with your autograph!

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  13. It's pretty neat how you're doing this. I also think it's awesome that you're being so responsible and professional with your edits. I wish I knew how to do spreadsheets because it sounds like that's really helping to organize what you need to do.

    I think you'll be done by Thanksgiving. I don't have any questions right now, but maybe later. :-)

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  14. Hi Jody - I'm one of the people Bekah referred to your blog at last weekend's Indy Writers Conference. I told her your name sounded familiar, and I realized why when I saw you in the comments section of Jessica's blog. :-)

    These insights are so interesting, especially going back to read what their rewrite suggestions were! An agent I met with this past weekend talked about how the Christian market likes to see a happy ending, so it's interesting to see that reiterated with your editor's feedback.

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  15. Best of luck with the revision process.

    I'm with you on the cutting/pasting - I always put the deleted parts in another document and save for a later date, or maybe never. I often think that what doesn't work in one project, might fit in another project, especially when it's a major cut job.

    I'm reworking one project right now and I've taken out huge chunks of the first few chapters and made the chapters smaller. The omitted chunks are in a new document that I will save for some later date.

    S

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  16. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us, Jody.

    Here's my question:

    How do you take care of yourself so that there is enough creative energy for writing effectively everyday?

    Taking care of people can leave me mentally drained and feeling like I have no inspiration. The hardest part of writing is THE THINKING, not the putting of words on a page. I think one of the greatest challenges for me is learning to manage life so that I can also write.

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  17. Jody, it sounds like you're manipulating a puzzle now. I know what you mean about not just being able to through scenes, paragraphs out, there are little nuggets that need to find a new home. That's the puzzle in it all.

    Praying for you, Jody!

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  18. sounds daunting yet lots of fun! :) I can't decide which! :) LOL

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  19. Hey, Jody!

    I'm currently editing/rewriting so that I can resubmit my novel sometime next year. It's been difficult, but the story that's emerging is a lot stronger than the one I originally had. The best part is being able to spend more time with these characters and in this world; I really did love writing this book! I even wanted more time with it. Silly me!!

    One thing I'm going to start doing is keeping all text that I really like but can't use and paste it on a word document. Maybe it's a description that doesn't fit in this book but will work in the next. I don't want to lose some great stuff just because it doesn't fit right.

    Good for you being at chapter 21! That's awesome! I too have a goal for Thanksgiving, but last night I got an idea that might lead to more days of rewriting. But it will be worth it!

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  20. You've kept us so in the loop. Thank you for that. I'm hammering out my WIP in hopes to get the first draft done so I can begin to edit on the long drive to FL.

    I just read in Betsy Lerner's The Forest for the Trees that there is a sweet time before the agent, before the book deal, before publication when you're writing can be free.

    It is good you are an organized hard working woman!
    ~ Wendy

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  21. Howdy, Jody.
    Do I remember right that you have five children? And a hubby? And a household to run? And you're writing full-time? You sound incredibly organized and detail-oriented. I am so impressed with your work ethic and the way your approach your life and your work. You deserve the success you are having right now. Enjoy it!
    Karen

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  22. Your journey has been not only informative, but also inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it so openly. I wish the best with your rewrites. I'm also trying to tackle a chapter a day, but sometimes that just doesn't work out.

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  23. Thanks for sharing you rewrite process. It sounds like it's going well!

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  24. Thank you so much for letting us experience this with you. I'd never thought of mapping out revision with a spreadsheet. Great idea.

    I'm waiting for my agent to send me rewrites later today. Can't wait!

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  25. So interesting to read about your progress and congrats! Like some of the others, I am also interested in the use of the spread sheet in the revision process. Trying to imagine how that works...

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  26. I'm rewriting/revising too and set my goal at three chapters a week. At that pace I should be done by the end of the year. While I don't have a spreadsheet, I have a hardcopy of the book with all my new ideas, changes and crit partner comments marked.

    I've also been outlining the next book and am (finally) ready to start writing this week. Woohoo!

    Thanks for sharing about the process. It's comforting to know that I've been doing some of this on my own already so it won't be such a foreign concept when I'm contracted ... someday.

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  27. I'm so glad you have found the rewrites rewarding! I'm also looking forward to your thoughts on balancing the rest of your life with the requirements of your revision process.

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  28. Hey there. Just popping in to say hi. Glad you rewrites are going well. Hope you finish them by Thanksgiving. Good luck.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  29. Thanks again for sharing your journey with us, Jody. I second Katie's question. How much feedback do the editor's give you on the rewrites? When they suggest you take out a specific section, do they tell you why or tell you that you should add it in somewhere else?

    Sounds like you're making great progress and you're on track for finishing those rewrites on time.

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  30. Thanks so much for sharing this. Interesting that when you cut, you find ways to weave that information back into other areas...I bet that is both difficult and exhilarating all at once. Sounds like you're cruisin' right along, even with the harder chapters.

    Keep up the good work! It's gonna be great! :-)

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  31. Jody, I'd love to know if that was your working title as well and if not who came up with it? I love it BTW. ;)

    Thanks for giving us this fascinating look into what comes next. I really do feel like I'm on a journey with you.

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  32. I can totally relate. The hardest part is keeping everything flowing, even though you're deleting or adding.

    Good luck.

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  33. I am so impressed that you are using a spread sheet and would love to know more about that process--it sounds confusing! But you make it sound helpful:)

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  34. Jody, I'm doing rewrites for my agent right now, also due before Christmas break. I can relate to so much of what you said here! The hardest part, best part, and most daunting aspect are pretty much the same for me. ;)

    Good luck with the rest of your revisions!

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  35. I'm impressed by your pre-holiday discipline. I'm sure you'll be able to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas much more, just knowing that you accomplished your goal! I great 'present' to give yourself!

    I spent Friday evening outlining my devotional series. Over dinner, I hashed out some ideas with my husband and was pleasantly surprised at how esily things seemed to come together. That may change as soon as I begin writing this week! Looking forward to your post on Wednesday!

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  36. Always fresh niblets and giant chunks of new and useful information. And just plain fun getting to know you.

    You rock!

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  37. You will feel so great when you complete those edits. You'll be free of mind to enjoy your Thanksgiving and your Christmas. Way to go, girl!

    My question is how are you capturing/organizing the deleted passages for easy, later reference? I've put mine in a Word doc but this might not be the best method for finding and retrieving them.

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  38. Jody you are making excellent progress! I love seeing you keep your goals.

    My question is: How is the stage of your writing different from the first draft? Does your family see a change in your writing load?

    Thanks again Jody for blessing us with your journey.

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  39. Thanks for your blog, Jody! It was great to discover it through Twitter. We are one of the same Twitter Lists which is how I found you!

    Stephanie
    CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET (Crown April 2010)
    http://www.StephanieCowell.com

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  40. I'm absorbing your words and grasping an understanding of different aspects of the process that I never would have known to ask about. Thanks for being an open book through this process Jody! :)

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  41. Hi, Jody!

    I'm curious. I know you took it pretty hard when you heard about the rewrites your editor wanted. Now that you're in the rewriting process, are you excited about the changes? Do you feel like your entire original story has been rewritten?

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  42. Wow, thank you so much for this blog and for sharing so much. I really appreciate it. I am just getting back into writing again, and I can't believe I've discovered you. I'm going to come back and read more, but for now, thanks and good luck with the rewriting, you seem to be going at it hell for leather!!

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  43. What program do you use to write your book with? Microsoft Word?

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  44. Howdee!

    I like your idea of using a spreadsheet to keep track of the edits.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  45. Hey, so glad your rewrites are going well, and that you've given yourself plenty of breathing room on your deadline. Turning in mss early makes editors happy. :)

    I just turned in a set of content edits myself. My editor suggested I take out two characters...at first I thought, NO!!! It will be too hard!

    And yet, when I thought about it, she was right. Since it wasn't all that hard to remove these two characters, I realized she was very, very right. If they were that easy to remove, they didn't need to be in there at all.

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  46. Your good attitude and work ethic is contagious! I've really been at the editing lately but there isn't an agent or a publisher waiting on my revisions. How did you stay motivated and deadline-oriented BEFORE someone was counting on you, before you had a book deal?

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  47. I don't envy you but I do, if you see what I mean.
    Rewriting must be hard but oh the end result will be worth it. It is good to read that you are finding positive results from the editing.

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  48. My twins were small, too. The first born was 4.1 lbs. and the other was 3.6 lbs. They were in the hospital for 3 weeks and still so small when we brought them home. I miss those days... until I remember all the crying and the lack of sleep. ;)

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  50. It's so cool, and really helpful, to share your process here. Looking forward to reading more.

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  51. Howdy! Glad you're plowing right through those revisions, and thanks for sharing your process.

    I'm in the "lull" between issues of Rose & Thorn Journal, so doing some editing work for a friend. I'm getting my "creative fix" by cooking lots while I'm on caregiving shifts for my mom. Dreaming of plunging back into my ms revisions.

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  52. What an interesting process. I would imagine it must be very difficult getting all of your slashed info into the story somewhere. It must be wonderful to see the new chapters coming out, all fixed up and wonderful. Keep up the good work. Hope you make your goal.

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  53. I love that you used a spreadsheet to help track the changes.

    I recently used one to work out my daily schedule. With my toddler running around and other HH duties calling I was squeezing in my writing, and feeling anxious about what needs to be done and when I'll have time to do it. Now that everything to be done is mapped out I can relax.

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  54. These are fascinating posts Jody! If my book ever sells I will be back to reread them. It sounds like you are SO ORGANIZED with your rewrites and that is impressive. I'm glad you are seeing good results!

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  55. I've just discovered your blog (by way of Jill Kemerer's blog) and I'm so glad.

    Congrats on your book deal and your writing! It'll be exciting to follow your story to publication and all the rest.

    Good luck with the December goal!

    Cheers :)

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  56. I've enjoyed reading your blog. (: Its very inspiring...like it's actually possible to get published with hard work and determination. So I've decided to give you an award over at my blog. (:

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  57. You're doing so great, Jody! Thanks for sharing more with us.

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  58. Sounds like you're doing a great job plugging away at the rewrites. Good luck!

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  59. I am overwhelmed with all the information I just received at the La Jolla Writers conference. Are the changes you're making from a publisher's perspective or a freelance editor? Sounds like you have a publisher. if so, Congratulations to you.

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  60. Wow that was intense! I don't know how you do it Jody, but it sounds like you have it all mapped out and you're doing a great job. I have lots of questions, but you are answering them one by one on your posts. Thanks so much for your help!

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  61. I have probably said this before, but I am learning such a lot from your path to publication :) Work from home India

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